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Issue No. 251 11 February 2005  

Polar Shifts
And so Workers Online makes our belated return to 2005 - and while we may have the same old familiar faces in Federal Parliament, politically, it�s a whole new ball game.


Economics: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers.

Interview: Bono and Me
ACTU Sharan Burrow lifts the lid on the rock star lifestyle of an international union leader.

Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Rowan Cahill bucks conventional wisdom to argue the eight-hour day began in Sydney.

Economics: OEC-Who?
The OECD calls for more reform. But, Asks Neale Towart, who is really doing the calling?

Technology: From Widgets to Digits
How can unions grow and continue to successfully represent workers when their traditional structures are rooted in an industry, craft or fixed location?

Education: Dumb and Dumber
Unions are leading the fight against a political agenda that does away with smart jobs.

Health: No Place for the Young
The support of union members is required to help get young people out of nursing homes, writes Mark Robinson

History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
February 17 marks 30-years to the day that sacked coal miners at the NSW Northern District Nymboida Colliery began their historic work-in at the mine.

Review: Dare to Win
The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.

Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
With another change at the helm of the Labor Party, our resident bard, David Peetz, can't help but dreamily drawing on some political history.


 Plastic Man Crosses the Line

 Taskforce Loses "Payback" Evidence

 Court Out � Again

 Blue Chips Fried in CBD

 Bosses Duck Decapitation

 Computer Driven Posties

 Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede

 Low Blow in Ferry Blue

 Howard "Unbalanced"

 Picketers Chase Millions

 Whistleblower Beats Bullies

 Mateship Shines Through

 Queensland Marks Power Grab

 Vale Laurie Aarons 1917-2005


Titanic Forces
There are book reviewers who have not read the book they have just reviewed and there are critics who have criticised films they have not yet seen. I want to review a novel that has not yet been written.

The Soapbox
Labour and Labor
Grant Bellchamber looks at the relationship between both sides organised labour

Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movement�s aid agency reports back on its relief effort in Asia.

The Locker Room
Game, Set and Yawn
Phil Doyle asks if tennis is evil or just boring

The Westie Wing
As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.

 Nelson's Double Standard
 Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
 Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
 Voting Farce Expands
 I Beg To Differ
 Politics Smolitics
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Letters to the Editor

I Beg To Differ

Pat Conroy's rejection (Workers Online #250) of Tom Bramble's analysis on the change in popular thinking in Australia is unjustified.

Tom wasn't saying that the shifts he was highlighting would be reflected in changed electoral behaviour in the short term (though his case wasn't helped by his

over-estimation of the Green vote in October).

He did, however, demonstrate that there have been considerable changes in some important indicators of

basic social attitudes.

The task is to consider the relationship between these changes and recent election results.

Take the "social services vs tax cuts" debate. The Right has been dismissing survey results saying that people prefer increased social services to tax cuts by attributing them to the desire of respondents not to

appear selfish.

While this may be a factor influencing the result of any

one survey, it doesn't explain the strong shift over time in the direction of wanting more social services.

You'd have to argue that the "guilty conscience" factor was increasing as time went on, something which is not intuitive in a time when the papers and the air waves are dominated by a\ handful of free-market ideologues in the pay of the media barons.

Similarly, the rise of the Greens is not just a re-hash of the Democrats.

They are significantly to the Left of their now-eclipsed rivals and, in the recent election campaign, came under some heavy fire from the usual suspects on the Right - something that never happened to the Chippocrats.

The two factors together signify a hardening of opposition to Howard, though it would be unwise to overestimate its current extent.

The question of the relationship between changes in public opinion & electoral shifts in the other direction should be resolved by looking at

broader factors.

In particular, we should consider the lack of a coherent

ideology on the Left.

The Left these days has no coherent ideology.

This means that specific proposals are less comprehensible to most people and are more subject to misrepresentation.

Further, it means that opposition to the Right is piecemeal, reactive and, in many ways, just plain conservative. The Right know what they're on about & propagate their line consistently (or, at least, as consistently as the inconsistency of their logic allows), while the Left has no collective sense of what it stands for.

This intellectual vacuum on the Left didn't come out of nowhere (pardon the pun).

It is the product of the simultaneous collapse of the two major Left intellectual traditions of the 20th Century - social democracy & Stalinism.

Social democracy failed because mixed capitalist economies can no longer be nationally regulated to deliver a rough equality in living standards and a

substantial social wage.

Globalisation has put paid to that, since employers now build their factories in a global labour market - and

financial markets will shift fortunes immediately on these judgements, rather than wait for existing facilities to depreciate.

Stalinism failed because police states can't innovate and bureaucrats can't plan.

Workers in the late, unlamented USSR went on the world's biggest go-slow in response to the r�gime they were saddled with, while workers in the West (including

Australia) stopped putting their hands up for a dose of the same as they slowly realised what was goin!

g on there.

And to top it off, the small Trotskyist groups offering their alternative have been so undemocratic that their major achievement so far has been to generate a considerable number of ex-members who think they're

little better than the Stalinists.

With the collapse of Stalinism and social democracy, the Right no longer feel compelled to offer either a morally superior alternative or piecemeal


With no social vision to put demands or objectives in context, the labour movement lacks confidence & cohesion.

So, the Right stays on the offensive and continues to win victories in elections and on specific

issues, while public opinion turns against them on their core values.

Sooner or later (and the sooner the better, in my opinion), the gap between working people and the Right will be filled by resistance on the ground

rather than media-induced confusion.

Resistance will start without a conscious ideology, but workers will reflect on their experience in the

struggle and draw conclusions from that.

Further, because of the undemocratic reputation of Stalinism, workers will insist on maintaining

directly democratic control of their organisations of struggle.

The Left will re-emerge, but it will look very different from the one the "Communist" Party dominated for decades.

And I'll be doing my bit to contribute to the

development of its ideology.

So, the news isn't good for the ALP's prospects in the next election, since the trends Tom Bramble has analysed are more "subterranean" than how people

will vote, but they're no less real for that.

The lying rodent might keep winning elections, but he's teaching people the consequences of his


Giving way to hatred, greed and fear harms most of the population, including most workers who vote for it, and it's that reality therapy that's creating a new constituency for the Left.

Let's start organising resistance on the ground, and let the pollies try to catch up with us.

Greg Platt


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